Your  Account:

Cultural Intelligence

Today our students face a world that is highly complex and culturally diverse. As educators we are expected to acquire expertise in transmitting curriculum and structuring the classroom for optimal learning (Moule 2013).  Culturally intelligence pedagogy provides our students with the analytic tools to deal with ambiguity, approach conflict creatively, the ability to think critically in wide variety of communicative contexts, and to communicate cross-culturally. As faculty members we have the power and the responsibility to create conditions for student retention and success across our campus.

As a result of the growing demographic of historically underrepresented groups, perhaps for the first time in history, we are at a critical crossroad – the success of diverse college students is tied to our collective social and economic well being as a nation (Harris, Bensimon 2007, Moule 2013). Research indicates that teaching in diversity and multicultural sensitivity across disciplines can reduce prejudice, transform students’ perspectives and is positively correlated with workplace readiness ( Enberg et al. 2007, Denson 2009). Curricular and pedagogical practices that enhance cultural competency serve all our students by attending to the experiences of differences among and across our student population.  (Harper and Hurtado 2007, Museus and Maramb 2011, Museus et al. 2008).  Multiculturally relevant content and pedagogical practices in the arts, business, education, STEM, and the social and physical sciences promote social equity and develop theories and skills for lifelong learning, critical for participation in democratic societies, innovation, and workplace satisfaction and success. 

Companies list the ability to deal with difference and complexity as one of their top three skills sets (for a more detailed review see Diversity Officer Magazine: What Is Cultural Competence & How Is It Measured?). Workplace cultural competency has been described as the ability and willingness of individuals and organizations to embrace, integrate, and appropriately apply workplace processes, policies, and interactions. The result is improved understanding and development of the organizational environment, capabilities and services.  In the sciences, cultural intelligence is attached to lifelong learning described as necessary for innovative work and critical for instilling rigorous intellectual habits. These knowledge and skill sets lead to self-directed, informal and creative thinking within the field. There is much research to support the development of a more multiculturally relevant content and pedagogy in these areas in order to meet the challenges of the 21stcentury workforce.

Promotion of Social Equity/Pluralistic Ideals of Democratic Citizenship: Our nation is currently in a state of crisis. Racial, ethnic and gender issues continue to challenge us to find ways to quell a growing state of tension in our communities, nation and world. Cross cultural intelligence pedagogy requires that we examine our own positionalities and begin to find creative solutions to these problems that divide us.  Postsecondary education does not and cannot exist in a socio-political vacuum. As faculty, we must find ways to address the tensions across difference on our campus and in society in ways that will allow our students to develop critical consciousness, tools for engagement, and the motivation to use their knowledge and skills to improve the quality of life for all emerge spontaneously in our classes.

Suggested Readings

  • Bolman, L.G., Deal, T.E. (2008). Integrating Frame for Effective Practice. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership, 311-326.
  • Hurtado, S., Alarez, C.L., Guillermo-Wann, C, Cuellar, M., & Arellano, L. (2012). A model for diverse learning environments: The scholarship on creating and assessing conditions for student success. In J.C. Smart, & M.B. Paulsen (Eds.) Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, 27. New York: Springer.
  • Kensal, A., & Eckel, P. (2002). The effect of institutional culture on change strategies in higher education: Universal principles or culturally responsive concepts? The Journal of Higher Education, 73(4), 435-460.
  • Sue, D.W. (2010). Microagressions in Everyday Life. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.                                 


Denson, N. , & Chang, M.J. (2009). Racial diversity matter: The impact of diversity-related student engagement and institutional context. American Educational Research Journal, 46(2), 322-353.

Engberg, M.E. (2007). Educating the workforce for the 21st Century: A cross-disciplinary analysis of the impact of the undergraduate experience on students’ development of a pluralistic orientation. Research in Higher Education, 48(3), 283-317.

HarrisonIII, F., & Bensimon, E.M. (2007). The equity scorecard: A collaborative approach to assess and respond to racial/ethnic disparities in student outcomes. New Directions for Student Services, 2007(120). 77-84.

Harper, S.R., & Hurtado, S. (2007). Nine themes in campus racial climates and implications for institutional transformation. New Directions for Student Services, 2007/ (120), 7-24.

Moule, J. (2015). Cultural Competence: A primer for educators. Wadsworth:Belmont. CA.

Museus, S.D., Nichols, A.H., & Lambert, A.D. (2008). Racial Differences in the effects of campus racial climate on degree completion: A structural equation model. Review of Higher Education, 32(1), 107-134.

Museus, S.D., & Maramba, D.C. (2011). The impact on Filipino American students’ sense of belonging. Review of Higher Education, 34(2), 231-258.

Wells, Kim. R. “How to Choose a Company that is Culturally Competent.” Graduating Engineer Online. 1 September 2003. Available at: